Ohio Star Ball

I’ve been hiding out.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  It’s been an interesting couple of months so I have a lot to share to catch you all up to what is happening in my life, and my dancing life.  Yep, you can expect a very long post.

First off, welcome our newest Ballroom Village member, Rob, from Musings For Ballroom Beginners. Looks like he offers advice for ballroom beginners in the Boston area so check it out and thanks to Katie from The Girl With The Tree Tattoo for hooking him up to our little community.

It’s been a while since I went to Ohio in November.  It was seriously cool to be there and to check a few items off my bucket list!  If you recall, I was invited to participate in the Best of the Best (So was our friend Katie and it was such a bummer she wasn’t able to come.  I can’t wait to meet her in person and I was definitely thinking of her as the day unfolded).  This was unexpected especially since I hadn’t competed for the better part of the year and just did Galaxy since it is a local competition and a nice re-entry into the dance world.

The deal was that since I won my scholarship in Bronze and then beat other scholarship winners I qualified to dance at Ohio in a 90 second solo using only Bronze figures plus up to 5 figures from the Silver level.




So here is a picture of the poster of all the competitors and a video of the routine I did with Ivan.

I did not place well in this event, nor really in any other heats or scholarship rounds.  In this particular event I was rated highly by all judges but one who rated me inordinately low such that it knocked me out of the running for a placement.  It’s odd that there was just one outlier but it goes to show that it is important to connect with everybody and I guess I still have room to grow, and/or I should go to the competition owned by this particular judge lol.

I mean, really I shouldn’t have been shocked by my poor performance in terms of results.  I had been to exactly 1 competition for the entire year.  I hadn’t been seen and it was a bold move to go to Ohio after such little preparation.  Ohio attracts a lot of high level competitors so it’s already on a higher level than many other competitions.  I think I made it to finals in 3 of my rhythm rounds but other than that I didn’t even make semi-finals for many heats.  At first I wasn’t phased by it.  I was just excited by the fact that I was actually living the dream – so many people wish to go to Ohio and some people never go.  Also, I was with my friend Mytia, I had other friends from EuroRhythm there, I had Ivan and Marieta there and Damir.  I saw many friends and lots of great dancing.  So even though we didn’t place as highly as I would have liked in the Rhythm rounds, I was mostly focused on Best of the Best which was my reason for coming in the first place.

It was such a special opportunity I didn’t want to pass it up.  To get to do a solo on one of the largest competitive stages in the country for amateur ballroom dancers might be a once in a lifetime thing so even though it totally caused me to overextend financially and I didn’t necessarily feel totally prepared, I knew I had to be there.

I’m really glad I had the presence of mind to take a moment right before we went on the floor to look Ivan in the eyes, give him a hug, tell him that I love him and appreciate our partnership, and to be grateful for the opportunity to be there doing this.  So we danced and then I watched all the other dancers and some were really good and some were less good and it was interesting and fun to be a part of it.

Then I made a fatal mistake!  I thought, “Maybe I have a chance of placing!” In this one thought, I generated an expectation and when there is an expectation, no matter how subtle, there is also disappointment.  If only I could have stayed in the space of gratitude I would have been fine.  But with that one thought a death-spiral ensued that led to a pretty big melt-down during my Latin rounds the following day.

I mean, it wasn’t all doom and gloom!  There are some really neat events at Ohio unique to this competition.  Besides Best of the Best, there is also Team Match, which some of the best dancers from each region in the US are invited to compete on a team representing their particular region.  Each couple dances one dance against other regions in the same style and then the region teams earn points for first, second, and third placements.  It’s a real party atmosphere, relaxed, and very fun to watch and cheer for.  There are noisemakers provided to the crowd and the regions dress up in moustaches, wigs, vests, and hats in the color that represents their region.  Ivan danced with another one of his students in the team match but alas, my region did not win.

Also excellent were the professional rounds.  There is an amazing energy when so many professional couples are on the floor together!  They danced like 4 or 5 rounds, and the floor was completely packed.  Also totally cool were the showdances!  They were lots of fun and very creative.  I even got to see Yulia and Ricardo in person which I’ve always wanted to do, and even got a picture with them!


Can you believe it?!  You’ll also probably see me in the audience on TV if it is on PBS this year.  I was in the very front row, right on the dancefloor.

But anyways, after the disappointing results in Rhythm and Best of the Best I was less than enthused to dance my Latin rounds.


It’s weird. Normally I’m nervous, and especially right before going on the dance floor.  Before these particular rounds, however, I was too grounded, too calm, there was no joy or performance quality inside me.  There was only the worry of dancing it “right” and “looking good/not making a fool out of myself.”  But with that attitude, I did not dance my best and my instructor and coach Damir was honest enough with me to tell me so.  Worse than that was that I freaked out after it was complete.  I was surprised to hear things come out of my mouth like, “I don’t belong on that dance floor.”  And, “I’m not good enough.”  My confidence was shot and I thought I was over that.  I got a reality check that there is still more confidence for me to own and grow into.  I mean, the positive side of all of this was that I got direct feedback of exactly where I was and exactly where I wasn’t.  You can’t know until you actually show up and act it out, no matter how you imagine you might show up and how things might go, you never really know until you are in in it.

So it was nice to see some friendly faces from home and to know that people who knew me believe in me. Bree invited me to come work with her to really get clear on a few things with Rhythm (I have yet to take her up on the option) which is an amazing opportunity. I know with just a few tweaks I will be that much more self-assured, comfortable, and confident, which I have discovered is what creates the space inside of me to feel safe enough to be vulnerable and really show who I am in my dancing. Otherwise I get too caught up in trying to do it well, trying to look good and not look bad, trying to be technically correct, none of which allows me to actually be present and connect with my dance partner, the audience, the music, or the experience.

So Ohio was a whirlwind, total immersion experience.  There was a lot of fun, a lot of self-created drama, and I was a bit burned out by the end of it.   I mean, it’s weird timing.  I wanted to dive right back in with dancing and handle some of what I discovered, but I had blown my financial wad so paying for lessons was a concern, and also it was the holidays.  With that comes closed studios and lots of family time.  In addition, our family had a major life transition.  My mother’s mother, my grandmother, had a stroke in October and this marked a quick decline.  She passed just after the new year.  It was a big stress on my mother and truthfully the entire family system even though I had a beautiful experience saying goodbye to her and I’m so grateful for my memories of her.

So the upshot of all this is that I basically stopped dancing for about 2 months.  I’ve just gotten back to it about two weeks ago.  I gained about 20 pounds and I’m nowhere near the physical fitness level I was before I went to Ohio.  So I’ve regressed.  Also, I’m not feeling as passionate about dancing like I used to.  It was such an urgent drive before, and now it’s more of a meditation.  Kristijan and I have been focusing on being authentic, being very present so that a true lead and follow can occur, and dancing.  I have to continue to remind myself to stay in a space of acceptance and love and joy when my monkey mind wants to go directly to attack the image I see in the mirror, the one that is larger and flabbier and out of breath.  But you see, I’m determined to be kind to myself.  I refuse to abuse myself like I used to…that does nothing but create stress.  In fact, my goal this week is to look in the mirror and give myself one or more genuine compliments daily.  I shared my intention to do this with a friend and she told me she did it daily for over a year until she stopped crying when she did it.  She said it was then that she knew she believed it.  So that’s my plan.

So if I’ve apparently regressed when it comes to my physicality and dancing, I’ve also been up to something really cool.  I was feeling a bit stagnant a few months ago so I decided to take some courses at a personal development company.  I took their entry level course, then the advanced course, and I just completed what they call the Self-Expression and Leadership Program (SELP).  This lasted for 3 months during which the participants created projects for the communities in their lives that they care about.  One of my peers created a game called Fit Chess which combined physical fitness and logic to connect people who normally wouldn’t come together, another one created a class for kids about connection and being in a community, another one created No Drama Baby Mama for at-risk pregnant women to teach them skills for meditation and self-advocacy so that all babies born would have a baseline of peace as their first experience in the world, and another created personalized bags for foster kids so that they didn’t have to put their belongings in trash bags when moving like she did when she was a kid.  Needless to say, it has been inspiring and wonderful to be surrounded by people like this who are a contribution to society and the world.

As for me, I’ve teamed up with my dance community.  With help, I’m throwing a fundraising showcase next in April that is set to raise $2000 or more for a local domestic violence shelter.  Dancers from various studios across the city will be participating and all proceeds will be donated.  In addition, residents at the shelter will have the opportunity to take a group ballroom dance class for 4 weeks and during the last week they will get the opportunity to have a complete ballroom makeover.  They will get to wear the dresses, have their hair and make up done, and get pictures.  The vision is that they will see themselves completely differently than when they were in crisis fleeing from dangerous situations.  Some escaped with just the clothing on their backs.  Can you imagine coming from that space to being dressed to the hilt like someone on Dancing With The Stars?  If you are interested in donating, or even coming (I have a friend from Texas who is travelling to either be in the event or watch it) you can check out the Facebook page I created for it here.  It is open to the public and the more money we can raise the better.

It is an interesting time in my life.  I feel like I’m starting from square one with my dancing, fitness, and weight loss journey.  My job is feeling less satisfying although I just got a raise and my performance couldn’t be rated any higher.  I’ve agreed to coach the next SELP so I will be creating another community project over the next 3 months all while helping others to do the same.  I wanted to dance in the Beach Bash in San Diego in April because I hear it is super fun, and, I’m intimidated by how much work it would take to get back into some semblance of fitness.  Where is my drive?  Where is my motivation? What do I want to do with myself for the next 20 years, assuming I get to live that long lol?  What’s next for me?

So I guess that gets us caught up though unresolved.  The winds of change are brewing.  Also, I’m unsure of what to do about my dance teacher situation.  Financially I can’t compete with both of them, at least not with my current job situation, but I love them both and they both add value to my life experience.  So that’s another issue up in the air as to what to do about that.

As I end this blog post I’m present to how most posts have some sort of awareness or lesson or discovery that I made and can share.  This time, however,  there is no such purpose.  If anything, it is even more “in the question” and unsure than ever before.

It is odd how life unfolds and how the journey often looks very different than we would have imagined it would go.  So here I am, middle aged, married, overweight, no kids, great job, feeling a bit dissatisfied, wanting to be of contribution and to be excited about life.  Things were much clearer as a kid.  The entire path was laid out before me – I knew I would go to college and probably some higher education and then adult life could really begin.  But without the distraction of kids and working from home alone by myself many hours each week I am left with just myself.  But who am I and what am I going to do?  What do I want to do?  Who do I want to be?  I thought I was a pharmacist, a dancer, a friend, an aunt, a wife.  Each role I played the part changing hats as the situation called for it.  And now?  Now I’m not so sure.  What will bring me joy?  What gifts do I have that I can give to the world?  My belief system about how reality works has been shaken lately.  I don’t have it all together, not by a long shot.  If anything I’m questioning life more than I ever have.

I do know that things must shift and dancing will most likely be part of that.  I’m glad we have created a space to share what’s going on for us as a community.  From dancers going through the process of cancer, to injuries, victories, competitions, showcases, fights with our teachers, disappointments, and sweet stories of connection and love, it is a rich landscape and I’m grateful to all of you who inhabit our virtual dancehall.



Guest Post: First Showcase Experience

Yes, yes! I know!  I’ve been a very irresponsible blog keeper, especially in light of having gone to Ohio Star Ball.  And, it’s coming.  In the meantime, please enjoy this amazing guest post from my friend Mary Beth.  She is courageous, an amazing listener, an authentic friend, and a dancer!


In June I told Stefanie my deepest, darkest secret and my whole life changed. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s rewind a bit.

For years I’ve had a very specific image of myself as a person. I am logical, rational, and very, very left-brained. I avoid feelings and emotions like the plague. My life is ruled by organization, order, and reason. I never thought that artistic or creative pursuits were available to me while all along harboring this secret dream. This dream remained a secret because I knew (or at least told myself that I knew) that I could never be what I wanted to be. I have the wrong body type; I’m not in shape enough; I don’t want people looking at and judging me. My internal critic kept my dream hidden.

But let’s get back to June. The conversation with Stefanie started out innocently enough. We had met each other the week before at a seminar. We were chatting on the phone when she asked me the question that changed my life and brought my secret out into the open, “What have you given up on because your weight?” The question caught me off guard and without thinking I blurted out, “I’ve always wanted to dance and I’ve been looking for a hip hop class but I can’t find a place I would feel comfortable.” She then asked me if I’d ever considered partner dancing to which I quickly responded No! (All the while thinking…that’s WAY too far out of my comfort zone…I had just admitted this huge secret for goodness sake…what more did she want from me!?!!!)

She persisted however and suggested that I try a ballroom studio she knew of that she thought would be a good fit. Once again, against what I thought I knew about myself, I said sure. The next day I got a text from her telling me that I had a lesson on Friday.

With significant apprehension, I showed up on Friday and three times the week after. And another three times the week after that. Before I knew it, I had signed up for lessons and dancing became the best part of my week. I wasn’t graceful or proficient or coordinated and I was having a fantastic time!

One August day, I walked into the studio. Stefanie was just finishing up her lesson and she and my instructor “informed” me that I would be doing the studio’s showcase in October. I’m not going to lie, it took some convincing and in the end I took the confidence that they had in me that I could do it and said yes. Since my secret was now out, I began telling everyone of my initial hip hop dreams and my instructor and I decided to perform a tango/hip hop mash-up.

The showcase got moved to December (thank God!) and was just a few weeks ago. It was finally our turn and to be honest with you I don’t remember too much of it. What I do clearly remember is messing up in the middle of the tango part, making a face about it and then thinking, “I bet if I hadn’t made that face few people would have noticed.” I also remember my pants almost falling down during our hip hop part, which I only discovered as my hand brushed my leg and I thought, “I should be feeling pants right now!” As the cliché goes, the show must go on, so I hiked up my pants and kept right on going.

Despite the mistakes and wardrobe malfunction, to be honest, what I remember most from that night are my feelings. I remember feeling totally caught up in the performance and having the time of my life. I remember feeling absolute love, support, and encouragement from the audience, friends and strangers alike. I remember feeling like I was completely accepted as a dancer. I remember feeling like I belonged.

Six months ago when I blurted out I want to dance, I had no idea how significantly and joyfully my life would change. It’s not all sunshine and roses and that’s ok. I really loved dancing in the beginning when I was learning the basic steps, remembering to put my left foot in one place and my right foot in the other was right up my alley. I could think and reason my way through the lessons and that was great. And then came the more expressive parts…not only does the left foot go here and the right foot go there but the arms do this and you’re supposed to smile. During those moments, I desperately have to resist listening to my internal critic when they tell me I look foolish when all the women around me look so graceful. That same internal critic goes on high alert when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror or watch a video of myself. Despite (or maybe in spite of) her I keep dancing.

I keep dancing because I am a person who wants to experience and bring joy to others. I keep dancing because I have discovered and fallen in love with my creative and expressive sides. But most importantly, I keep dancing because it feeds my soul.

I thank my lucky stars every day that Stefanie signed me up for that first lesson. I am also honored that she asked me to share my experience with you. Enjoy!



Drama Queen

Tonight was rough.  Nothing happened, actually, I mean, no event transpired during my day today that would have triggered this reaction.  No, this is a reaction to the past, and it is painful.

I’m trying to wrap my head and my heart around it.  I want to understand this breakdown because I believe on the other side, there is a breakthrough to be had.  This is an opportunity to let go of something that no longer serves me.  It means there is something for me to surrender, I just have to figure out what it is and then have the courage to let it go.

So I showed up for my lesson today and although I felt pretty neutral coming in the studio, as I made my way to the bathroom, I began to feel a bit blue.  The truth is, as I got dressed for my lesson, I put on a shirt and I didn’t like how it looked on me – my body looked, to me, wide, round, not curvy, just blobby.  And don’t even get me started on my arms.  Mental sigh.  Wear a different shirt that you are more comfortable in so you can ignore the way you look.  Focusing on my body brings me no joy and I know this so I try to be as kind as I can to myself and wear things that make me feel a little bit better.  So, anyways, the point of this is that the self-judgement, criticism, and rejection had already started before I left home, even if subtly.  I tried to brush it off.  I tried to take an action to alleviate the demons and shift my focus by changing clothes.  It didn’t work.

So the conditioning that I’ve internalized saw that it had a toe-hold on my brain and it hijacked the operation.  It took advantage of the mirror in front of me, using it as a rapier to slice my heart, reminding me of all my perceived flaws, making me aware that I’m wishing that I were other that what I am.  I waste so much time and energy on this stupid spiral, I keep engaging in it.  I know, from an intellectual place, how insane this is, and yet I’m still doing it.  It makes me cry.  I don’t even want to repeat all the crap this conditioning spewed at me, let’s just say it’s exquisitely painful to look in the mirror and wish that the reflection was different.  It’s painful to reject yourself.

I mentioned to Kristijan that I felt like I was twelve years old.  This wasn’t so much about the fact that I was being emotional for no apparent reason, but rather because I felt small and insecure.  Being the type of person who believes nothing is coincidence and that honing in on a specific age could be a clue, I thought back on my drive home about when I was twelve years old.

I recalled that when I was twelve my family moved from Colorado to Arizona and I started 6th grade.  The summer before this move we came to visit and attended a pool party.  I remember my mom pointing out to me that everyone in Arizona was fit and trim and that we should be that way too to fit in.  Over that summer I was put on a diet and I dropped lots of weight.  By beginning of the school year I was deemed acceptable.

I must own my part in this and the fact that I’m going into victim mode around this to a point.  I took on the beliefs that created this perspective on the experience.  Also, the unconscious message I got very clearly was that I was unacceptable as I was and needed to change to be accepted and loved.  I did change, but on one level, this was a betrayal of self and the buying into of a lie that there was something to fix.  Also, I remember being so hungry on this diet that I snuck uncooked pasta from the pantry.  That doesn’t seem like a normal thing, nor a compassionate way to transform one’s body.

Anyways, that event was what it was. But it was a seed which I then must take responsibility for watering and nurturing until it has grown into a thorny weed around my heart.  This weed pricks deeply, I bleed self-rejection.

I say I want to be a joyful person and yet I’m doing this to myself.  I’m showing up as sad, drama queen.  I’m told one must first fully acknowledge exactly where one is before it can be healed or addressed properly.  Normally I’d berate myself for choosing to slide down this particular death spiral, admonishing myself for once again being an asshole for choosing misery when I theoretically know better.

This time, I want to explore it more fully.  I want awaken to it so that it can reveal the gift it has in store for me.  I don’t want to resist this anymore because that doesn’t change anything, in fact it probably keeps it in place.

One thing that arises is compassion for my twelve-year-old self, who just wanted love and acceptance, who just wanted to be okay, and who rejected herself, took on the job of self-rejection, so that she wouldn’t have to endure it from others around her that she loved.  She was trying to protect me/herself in a way, and that is lovely.  The only problem is, this protection is not actually protecting me from anything – actually there is nothing to protect me from.  Actually, this armor that was built to protect me is weighing me down and causing harm.

I really want to be with whatever this part of me is that needs my love and attention.  I no longer wish to shut it down or make it go away because it’s not effective and painful.  I want to embrace this sad energy, cradle it in my heart and whisper to it, soothing it, saying, I have enough space for you.  You are welcome here.  I’m sorry it took so long for me to hear you and attend to you.  I love you and I need your love.

I surrender the need for you to grow up or be other than you are.  I surrender all my expectations.  I let go of all I pressure I put on you.  You are perfect just as you are and I’m grateful for your contribution to my life.  But this process that we’ve been doing together just brings us both down.  It’s not moving us forward, in fact it’s keeping us stuck!  And we are missing out on the joy available in the moment.  I apologize for every time I think a thought that rejects you or resists reality just as it is, with nothing added and nothing taken away.  I’m choosing to choose you and life and me and my body just exactly as it is.  I forgive myself for being human and having erroneous thoughts.  I will do my best to be aware of them and lovingly correct them as soon as possible.

So here I am, at the end of all that writing and it has nothing to do with dancing.  I just knew that I was in a tizzy and needed to work this all out.  Writing is my therapy and I thought it might contain something worth sharing.  For whatever reason, the place in my life where this particular storyline plays itself out most vehemently is while I’m dancing.  It’s the place where I can access the rejected parts of me, they are right there barely under the surface.  In most other areas of my life I don’t get this down on myself, nor do I feel the depths of despair.  I guess this is why I say that dancing is my practice.  Hopefully next time I go, me and my twelve-year-old self can go hand in hand and enjoy our time together, for I am the possibility of compassion and self-love and she is welcome here.


Award Time!

Hello chickadees!  It’s me, your incredibly inconsistent blogger friend.

I’m not even exactly sure what I’m going to write today but I left my iPad at the studio (it’s safely behind the front desk at this point awaiting me), so I’m unencumbered and have pulled out the old laptop.

I danced tonight, so that seems like a good place to start.  We had a “competition simulation” at EuroRhythm which is basically dancing rounds.  I signed up for just 2 rounds, mainly for financial reasons, and boy did it kick my butt.  Seriously.  That is some serious cardio.  I danced full-out during both rounds to the point that I got sick to my stomach toward the end and the last 45 seconds or so of the jive. At the end of each round I was thinking, “this is NOT fun!”  Seriously (did I say that before?) I’m a bit worried about my cardio stamina.  I thought it was better and I did really well at Galaxy but after tonight, I’m doubting where I stand.  I suppose the good thing is that I have 4 weeks left.  And we are scheduled to have one of these killer cardio sessions for the next 3 weeks, so hopefully that will help.  That plus I signed up for “Hell Week” at Orange Theory next week which consists of attending 5 workouts over 6 days, so that will be quite a stretch…Oh and each workout has a clever name like “Death by Rower” or “The Hills Run Red”…I hope I survive and get the t-shirt they promise you for completing the challenge!

So back to tonight’s drama, I was so winded at the end of the second round that I decided to be dramatic and lay face down on the carpeting beside the dance floor.  It cracked Anja and another instructor up pretty good.

The other cool thing that happened was that one of my favorite fellow dancers who also dances with Kristijan was there and we conspired to create a little magic and gratitude.  So what occurred was that I won a silly award for performance at my work that earned me a certificate and a tiny plastic trophy, probably from the 99 cent store.  I threw it in my car and it was sitting in my console staring at me.  As I got out of my car I saw it and thought, “Hmmm, maybe I can give an award tonight.”  Part of me was like, “Well, if you are going to do it, do it right!  Create a certificate and make something polished.”  I hesitated, ignored the perfectionistic comment from my brain, and decided to be spontaneous.  I then grabbed the golden trophy and threw it in my purse.  I saw my dance friend and my idea grew.  I won’t share her name since I didn’t ask her if I could but we’ll call her “SweetP.”  So I told SweetP, let’s make up an award for Kristijan.  She was like, “To express our gratitude?”  And I was like, “Yes, exactly!  We can maybe grab him after the simulation and speak from the heart and give him his award.”  And she was like (and I’m so grateful for this), “And we have to give it to Anja as well!  She helps me so much with my dancing, too!”  And I was like, “Of course!  She has contributed so much to my dancing as well.  We will give it to them both!”  I love how this silly idea evolved and expanded and I love SweetP’s willingness to participate and make it even better.


So that’s what we did.  After the sweating and heavy breathing, we called over the wonder couple and I said, “I bet you didn’t know you were up for an award, did you?”  And they were like, “What are you talking about?” So SweetP said some words, and I said some words, and we basically thanked them for being kind and encouraging and joyful and helpful and for adding grace and beauty to our dancing.  It was a super fun moment.  And SweetP thanked me for including her afterwards which was great as well and also I was so glad to share it with her.

So that’s cool.

And in other news, Ivan and I continue to put together our Best of the Best routine and actually I’ll see him tomorrow in the evening but not for a lesson.  There is a Rhythm Dance Camp here in town with Sam Sodano and Bill Sparks and Decho and Bree that I will be attending tomorrow evening and during parts of the weekend.  Ivan will be there for tomorrow night but then is off to somewhere else for a professional performance with Marieta so I’ll be doing the rest of the workshops solo.  If I’m inspired, I’ll write about my experience and share it with you.  If I’m being incredibly inconsistent blogger then you may not see anything.  I make no promises.

One other cool thing to share is that I’ve started a new program in which I will be creating a project for the community.  We get to create whatever we want within the guidelines of the seminar.  It’s a 4 month-long event and I just had my first work day last Saturday.  There are such amazing people in my team and I have an amazing coach to help along the way.  It seems like each week we will get different assignments to work on and by the end we will have created something wonderful, each of us, and put it out into the community to make a difference.  I’m really excited about it and thinking that I want to create a program for dancing and working with women’s shelters.  I’ve often thought about how dance profoundly changed my life and my image of myself.  I’ve also often contemplated, as I saw people walking around on the streets, “I wonder what that person would be like if they had a ballroom “makeover” – if they had the opportunity to learn a dance, wear a glamorous gown, have their hair and make up done.”  They probably wouldn’t recognize themselves.  And I also thought that dancing, and being around the amazing women who have influenced my dancing, has created a space of Worthiness, Power, and Beauty.  And I thought what might a woman whose life has led her to be at a shelter be missing?  Maybe a good dose of Worthiness, Power, and Beauty could be transformational.  Maybe these woman could have a totally different experience of themselves in a totally new way, and maybe they could walk in the world differently.  So that’s the seed of my idea.  I am flexible and have no idea what the final product might look like.  It’s an adventure.  And it’s probably going to expand just like what happened tonight with SweetP – the idea will grow and change and improve as I enroll various partners’ in crime to help me make this happen!  Please send your good vibes, thoughts, and intentions for what is about to unfold!  I would love your support.

So I guess that’s it for the moment.  It’s 11:05pm and I’d better get some sleep!  I have a lesson with Ivan tomorrow at 10:15, then a pedicure, then who knows what might occur until 7pm when the first session of the dance camp begins.  Wish me luck!

And one final thing – big shout outs to BC Ballroom for completing her competition and to Girl With The Tree Tattoo for her committment to do the 31 day writing challenge!  I’ve been loving reading all your posts!  Best wishes to BC as she prepares for her upcoming surgery.  You are loved.

Your incredibly inconsistent blogger friend, Stef

Ohio Star Ball Here I Come!

Hey!  It’s a surprise to me, too!  I wasn’t expecting to be going there this year but an opportunity has come my way that I refuse to miss.  It might be a stretch for me to make this happen but I’m determined to seize the day.

So what changed from a few days ago to now?  As you may or may not know, I attended the Galaxy Dance Festival here in Scottsdale, Arizona over the last two days.  I danced in the bronze Rhythm category with Ivan.  We completed 2 rounds of closed dances and 1 round of open dances.  We also competed in the scholarship for closed bronze which was a Best of the Best qualifier event.

Now before Thursday I did not know this Best thing even existed, much less what it was or what it meant.

But let me back up here for a moment.  Before I get into all that, I want to share a bit about my experience over the past days.  Because although the news I have to share is wonderful and exciting, it actually isn’t the biggest “win” I had.  You see, I had many “wins” over the last few days that had absolutely nothing to do with how I placed or what my results were.



This was my first competition back in over a year.  That in and of itself is a bit intimidating.  When I left the scene I was doing reasonably well and I felt like people, certainly Ivan included, had expectations for me.  This is wonderful in the sense that people believe in me and want to see what I can do, how I will grow and develop, what I can show, and that they are interested in me at all.  On the flip side, this can easily turn into pressure, unhealthy, dysfunctional thinking, and misery through trying to strive to be something I think others want me to be, or trying to be perfect.

Okay, so during my break from the competition scene I’ve gotten myself to a much more grounded, healthy, stable place around how I think about myself and my dancing.  Stepping back on to the competitive ballroom floor was testing this new way of being.  I haven’t faced the nerves, the expectations, or being judged in a long time.  So I’ll count it as win number one to have had the courage to brave the uncertainty of dancing in public for the purpose of being compared, judged, and ranked.

The second win was how Ivan and I danced and related to one another.  We enjoyed ourselves.  He gave me feedback but it didn’t descend into the negative pit of despair.  We definitely had our hiccups out on the floor, we missed some areas in our open routines especially, but we never stopped dancing, we never lost connection, we made it work, and it was fun.  He was pleased with how it went, even with the mis-steps, which was a relief.  He told me flat-out before the competition that he had expectations for me about dancing in closed bronze, so I appreciate his honesty, but the thing is that we lucked out that our results matched his expectations.  I had already resolved myself to be completely at peace with however the results panned out.  I refuse to get myself in to that space of being disappointed by reality not going how I imagined it “should” go….instead I choose to accept it as it is.  This made the most challenging part simply waiting to for the results!  The waiting made me sick to my stomach.  But a result is just a result.  It is inherently meaningless.  Any meaning I assign to it is created by me.  I have no idea what the judges are looking at, and quite a few times results I saw in other heats and some of my own heats, I did not agree with.  Oh well.

So we related well to each other, we danced well, especially for slapping together the open routines is such a short amount of time (truly they are not practiced enough which is why I screwed them up here and there), and we actually enjoyed ourselves.  We went to lunch after our single dances and talked things over, noting that this is the way it can be each and every time we compete, whether there are 5 or 50 couples on the floor, because it is up to us the pressure we put on ourselves.  We don’t need to go to that nasty, misery place ever again.  In the end, for me, I think it is about confidence, believing in myself, doing my best, which is exactly what I did this time.  I did the very best I could.  I see that I have room to grow in confidence, and there are specific goals I have in regards to elevating weaker aspects of my overall game, and, with where I am right now, I left it all on the floor.  Yes I did.

So that being said, sometimes the person on the floor with you is better prepared and has a better overall game.  There were some confidence-boosting perks that occurred (which I will get to shortly), and there was also this situation.  When I saw the girl dancing in the Latin scholarship with me (it was a 2 couple final) I knew I would be second.  You know, sometimes it can be really a close call, and sometimes it’s really clear who is the superior dancer.  In this case, it was clear.  The cool thing was that I was cool with that, and this is no way demeaning my dancing.  There is no shame in doing my best and placing second such a polished dancer.  I’ll call this win number three.  I mean, what a great feeling to be so happy after completely bombing my cha-cha, “losing” to this great dancer, and ripping my dress!  I’m starting to be un-messable-with!

So yeah, that happened.  During my closed silver Latin scholarship (um, yeah, why in Silver in Latin when I have more experience in Rhythm….that was intimidating, but how the teachers did it so I go with the flow) I got so into my cha-cha that I forgot where I was in the routine and did the second set of cross-overs before the first single one, lost connection with Kristijan, and we stood still on the floor for a moment not dancing at all.  All I could do was laugh about it, and be like, meh, well, I’m still second place.  So I screwed up that pretty royally and then during the Paso Doble my heel got caught in my dress and I had to do this weird kick to get it free.  Well, I freed myself and then a dance later, during the Jive, I was spinning and a panel on my dress flew off across the floor!  And get this – I didn’t miss a beat!  For all I knew my butt was hanging out but I didn’t skip a step.  How is that for irony?  So as a cherry on top of the sundae, not only was I okay with my result, and okay with how I danced, but I got money for showing up!  Yep, even through it was a 2 couple final they still gave me a payout, which was super nice, and combined with my Rhythm scholarship winnings, really helped a lot with the cost of things!


Yep, did you catch that?  I earned first place in the closed bronze Rhythm scholarship.  It was a 3 couple final.  Then we danced a cha cha in the best of the best round, which was like a solo, and I won that as well….which got me an invite to compete in the Best of the Best at Ohio Star Ball….which is why I’m now going to Ohio Star Ball.  Can you believe it?


I mean, granted, Galaxy was a smaller competition with a small final, but still, it’s an opportunity.  Not everyone gets the chance to participate in this event and I even met Sam Soldano, the owner of Ohio, who is also a co-presenter of Galaxy, and he seemed keen to have me come.

Okay, so I won and I got my butt handed to me.  I also made new friends and that was win number…well, I’ve lost count at this point.  They are really adding up, aren’t they?  I mean, I can’t see a single downside when it comes right down to it.

And you know what, even though all this has been beautiful and wonderful, it’s still emotional.  I find myself tearing up today, for no particular reason.  I’m happy.  I’m satisfied.  And yet dancing, especially when I put myself out there on public display, taps into something deep within.  I sense that there has been a breakthrough, even if I can’t exactly put my finger on exactly what it is.

I don’t know what to name this breakthrough, all I know is that I feel clear – clearer than I’ve felt in a very long time.  I know exactly what to do for the next two months.  I know what to eat, how to work out, how much I want to dance.  I know the consistency I want to foster.  I love this time frame of 2 months – it’s enough time to make a significant difference, and yet still creates a sense of urgency, so that I show up even more alive, vibrant, strong, grounded, joyful, and grateful at Ohio, even as I rocked Galaxy exactly as I am right now.

There is something powerful about being willing to show up even when I know that I’m still in the process of developing.  I acknowledge myself for being courageous.  I acknowledge myself for being willing to be imperfect and to look the fool.

As you all know dance has been, and continues to be a healing experience for me. Another of the amazing gifts garnered from participating in this competition was seeing the progress I have made.  I used to be 85 pounds heavier. I used to  get winded after 1 samba.  I used to be afraid to express myself.  I used to be ashamed of my body and who I am.  The evidence is clear, I am no longer who I used to be.  I am no longer Biggest Girl In The Ballroom. No, I am Beautiful Girl In The Ballroom.  And that’s the biggest win of all.

Gah!  I am freaking sobbing writing and reading this!  I couldn’t tell you why it’s all so emotional, but it is.  I just feel like so much has happened, and there is so much more to come…starting with tonight!  I’ve got to dry my eyes, get cleaned up, and get back for the final session.  Then back to work on Sunday with a lesson with Ivan.

Stay tuned and I look forward to meeting those of you who will be at Ohio!

Love, Stef


Everything’s Wrong! Cue The Pre-Competition Freak-Out

Why I do this to myself I seriously don’t understand.

Boy did I get myself into a tizzy today.  So the deal is that I’ve signed up to do the Galaxy competition here in Phoenix and it is in about a week and a half.   I’m going to dance Rhythm with Ivan and Latin with Kristijan.

Do I feel ready?  Not at all.  My body and endurance is not where I want it to be.  My new shoes got here today so I’m breaking them in and they hurt.  I do not feel practiced in either set of my routines – we are still working out details in Rhythm open choreo (closed is just lead and follow but there is still technique to remember and execute with excellence), and I don’t know that we’ve run the routines completely start to finish, certainly not full-out with all tricks.  Oh, and also for sure we’ve not done any complete rounds.  In Latin, I learned both Paso Doble and Jive just last week.  Needless to say I don’t feel entirely comfortable with everything.  (Or ANYTHING!!! Gah!)

Not to mention that this is my first competition back in a year or longer.

Until today, I’ve been cool with it all.  I’ve been in a space that I am dancing for me, I love to do it, I need to get back into it at some point so why wait, we never really feel ready, and I’d thought I’d come to peace with how I am dancing and how my body looks.  I was really calm about everything just trusting that I don’t have to be perfect, but to get where I ultimately want to be, I need to get back in the game.  I was choosing to not take things so seriously because of everything that is going on, and really people don’t care that much anyways! I’ve been watching a lot of reality shows lately like Project Runway and RuPaul’s Drag Race and all the judging that happens comes down to opinions.  I’ve been working on making my own opinion of myself more important than those of others around me.  This isn’t to say I’m not open to feedback or coaching, but rather that such feedback doesn’t shake me to the core like it used to, that I can decide what works for me and leave what doesn’t, that I don’t just accept it as fact, and that at the end of the day it is about loving myself and being okay with being me.

I’ve been telling myself that this year was indeed about transformation.  I’ve made a lot of changes, although they may be invisible, but they have culminated in me changing the name of this blog, creating a situation where I can pursue dancing with two amazing instructors, and feeling ready to step back on to the competitive scene knowing that I am not as polished as might be expected.  I was (or at least I thought I was) strong and centered – determined to play my own game at the competition – one in which winning meant no nerves, enjoying myself, sharing myself, and really feeling the dancing (not just going through the motions or doing the steps per rote).  Not to mention it is a privilege and a blessing to get to pursue dancing.  First world problems, all of this!  I’m generally grateful about it!

Speaking about grateful – here is a pic of the new dress.  Animal print, red and black…RAWR!

New Dress is heavy! All those crystals...wish I had lost more weight just so I could be the same pounds after putting this dress on, Grrrl! lol

New Dress is heavy! All those crystals…wish I had lost more weight just so I could be the same pounds after putting this dress on, Grrrl! lol


Here is a nice detail of the cool 3-D flowers Julia added

Here is a nice detail of the cool 3-D flowers Julia added

Well, today, all of that went right out the window.  About half-way through my lesson with Kristijan, as we were running through rounds, it hit me, like out of nowhere.  Suddenly a cacophony erupted screaming mercilessly all my fears and insecurities, self-judgements, harshest self-criticisms, doom, gloom, and crappy self-talk.  I have not been triggered that intensely in a very long time.

“What will people think?” they said.  “You look exactly the same, you fatso!  You took a year off!  What the hell have you been doing?  Does your dancing even look different at all?  No! You know there will be expectations and what do you have to show for it?”  They continued, “And what about dancing with two different instructors?  People are going to comment on it.  You are going to be judged. They will be judged.” (Cue dramatic, horrifying music…dum dum daaaammmmm!)

And then probably my most familiar demon spake, “You stink! Your dancing is so bad, so gross.  How messy your feet are!  There is no upper body movement.  You are moving your hips wrong.  Seriously everything you are doing is horrible.  You really need to let go of the idea that you are or could be a good or excellent dancer.  You are just never going to look like that! Stop trying to be something you are not.  You will NEVER be enough.”

I got so fixated on looking good, or, not looking bad, that all the joy was sucked out of my being.  I was so caught up in all that was so completely, obviously WRONG with me, and how I am still not able to fix it, even after living 37 years on this Earth… “If only I could fix it.  Then I would be okay, then I would be acceptable.  Then it would be okay for me to dance…..”

I know it’s all bullshit but it feels so very real.  It’s so depressing. The black hole of egocenteredness….

I’ve really been working on letting go of trying to feel “special” or “better than/worse than” others.  This is just an ego-trip/ego-trick.  The ego is concerned with such things. (side note, ego is not bad…it’s just getting in my way in this particular issue.  We, as humans, must have some sort of ego persona to function properly…I guess I’m referring to an overblown ego, a needy ego, one that is not balanced or neutral in nature…)  I’ve been practicing my mantra of this is it, and this is perfect.  I am enough just as I am.  My body is exactly how it is and exactly how it isn’t.  It is changing every day based on how I take care of it.  I am so blessed to have such an amazing body that moves so beautifully and to be in such good health.  I’ve been practicing freeing myself from self-judgement and criticism so that I feel safe enough to just express myself freely.

And then today, oh man!  It sucked me right in!  Right back down to the deep black pits of despair.  Honestly, I’m still upset about it – that’s why I’m writing about it.  I want to get it all out and get the freak-out processed and gone so that I can show up how I want to show up at the competition, with a big, joyful smile on my face, nonplussed by how anyone reacts to me, really focused on enjoying the magnificent experience – to enjoy it for every penny I’ve spent on it (Am I right?  Ballroom is stupid expensive $$$$$), all the time I’ve put in to get ready for it, and all the energy I’ve put toward it.

(And shout out to Girl With The Tree Tattoo – how upset and disappointed I would be if I couldn’t even do it!!!! Humans, including me, are INSANE!!! I am lucky to get to do it…)

Although it was apparent I was emotional during my lesson, I pretty much held it together until I made it into my car.  Once I reached my vehicle and closed the door, I collapsed crying and coughing.  I even began retching a little bit (luckily I had tissues in my car) and my throat spasmed tight just like it did when I was a little girl trying to hold my emotions inside.  I felt like I was being choked from within the internal tissues of my esophagus.  Maybe you don’t believe in chakras or anything but it so happens that the throat chakra is related to self-expression, which makes total sense in my mind as to what’s going on inside my system.  It’s an old pattern of the feeling of being judged and needing to be other than I am which steals my joy and tightens me up to hold in the emotions.  Unfortunately it also squelches free self-expression, and I do not feel safe to be myself with abandon, without filtering.  Oh my! Time to let that one go, don’t you think?

The hilarious part is that I’m the one judging myself.  I do recall as a little girl wishing that I could just be accepted for who and how I was.  I did not feel that it was okay to be me.   I suppose every child experiences some flavor of that while growing up and being socialized so that we can actually fit into society and all.  So it’s probably just a normal part of development.  However I really seemed to have internalized the voice of self-judgement and it is rearing its ugly head right now.  There is no problem with it existing, it’s just that I am buying into what it says, and what it says is vicious.  This doesn’t serve me at all – it steals my joy, makes me sad and depressed, and just generally sucks!  Why am I believing what it says, anyways!?  If someone said these things to me out loud I’d tell them to go fuck themselves!  I’d walk away and know that they were full of crap projecting on me and that it was not the truth. OMG. So the fact that I was so very taken in by fear today was a real eye-opener.

Okay, so yeah.  Cue the freak-out. That’s the space I am experiencing today.


I’m determined to feel the feelings.  I am grateful this happened today and not the day of the comp!  (Yay? lol) Only when such vulnerablities that we want to hide in the shadows are exposed can we address them and heal them.

Moving forward: I, Stefanie, am committed to intentionally create for myself the experience I’ve described about how I want to show up at the competition.  I do declare that I will be joyful, calm yet excited, open, grateful, ready for fun and magic, limber, relaxed, connected, sensitive, centered, strong and powerful!  I will move people.  And, I choose to love and approve of myself exactly as I am.

That being said, I would still really appreciate encouragement and reminders of how awesome I am 🙂  It would help me shift out of this dark space quicker.

Love, Stef